Last week marks a special milestone for me, One Year of Owning a Resin Printer. I can’t believe that I have only printed on my Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K for only a year because looking back on it, WOW have I accomplished a lot. While I printed my first resin miniature back in 2018, i’ve waited some time to have my own.
Since I have had a resin printer in my home for a year I thought i’d take this opportunity to share some of the questions I answered before jumping into this aspect of the 3D printing hobby and share some of my experiences.
Over the last two years, resin printing has absolutely exploded. Printing in your home has become significantly more affordable as well as product variety in both the printers and material.
When I started looking in the 3D printing hobby, entry resin printers started around $500 with average cost of resin $60 for 1 kg of resin. Now people can get into the hobby for less than $200 a printer with resin costing about $30-$40 a kg for average users. On top of that material resin has grown in water washable resin, tough resins, flexible resins, transparent resins and more. These were available in the past but the number of companies offering options and variable price points around the world have grown tremendously along with improvements in formulas.
Not only has the cost of resin printing and availability of products grown over time but the market is absolutely stuffed full of artists and there hasn’t been a better time to find model variety for your tabletop games, display painting, wargaming etc.
My Personal Goals & Criteria for a Resin Printer
Before jumping into resin printing I set rules and answered several questions before buying.
Budget: Around $250
Printing Usage: Primarily miniature figures and bits
Size: Did not matter for me as I already owned a large volume printer with my Prusa Mk3s FDM printer
Goals: To create model figures and things I haven’t been able to do well on my FDM printer. Also learn a new method & technology of 3D printing
Narrowing Down the List
In summer of 2020 when I was researching what resin 3D printer to buy a few major milestones in resin printing development were happening for the 3D community.
- Large Format printers were hitting the marketplace for the the everyday hobbyist. These include products like the Elegoo Saturn which is almost 3 times larger in volume than the Elegoo Mars 2. Why is this important?
- Faster printing: Since the build plate is larger. Hobbyists can make more objects at a single time making it capable of producing more miniatures per print in the same amount of time.
- Print Larger Objects: Due to the larger volume in both the print bed but also the Z-axis. People can now print buildings and larger monsters easier with fewer cuts and keys.
- Monochrome Screens were being released as a new and improved screen for resin printing. Example model the Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K. Essentially each monochrome screen aimed to project more blue light at 405 mm wavelengths which is the light used in the photochemical reaction of resin printing. This is an improvement over the standard LCD screen with equivalent light sources of Red, Yellow, Blue. Why is this important?
- Faster Printing. Since there is a higher light efficiency projecting from the screen. Print exposure times go significantly down meaning it takes less time to cure each layer of resin and therefore producing a miniature faster.
- Longer Screen Life Spans: since the screen is emitting light more efficiently, it is therefore on for shorter intervals and will last longer. This saves the consumer more money in the long run in having to replace the screen. Marketing of monochrome printers say the lifespan can be 4 times longer than its LCD counterpart but only time will tell if that is true.
Since the evolution of 3D printing would undoubtedly result in faster printing the question still remained. Did I prefer a larger printing volume or higher resolution printer with a longer life span?
You might be asking “what do you mean higher resolution printer?” Glad you asked resin printing is based on the resolution of the pixel density of the screen and not just the resolution of the screen. Therefore if a printer has the same 4K resolution but one has a larger print volume the XY resolution of that printer would less than a 4K resolution small printer. As you might have guessed from reading my blog already I decided upon the Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K which was a 35 micron XY resolution printer vs the Elegoo Saturn with a 50 micron XY resolution.
At that time the Phrozen sonic mini 4K had the best marketed XY resolution ever to hit the hobbyist market. Currently it is matched with the Elegoo Mars 3 at 35 microns and beaten by the Epax X1-4K at 32 microns. Due to it being one of the first of its kind I did go slightly over my budget (approximately $300 early bird special) and jumped on the 1st wave of orders. I was absolutely thrilled to begin this new chapter of my printing journey.
One of the largest reasons why I waited so long to get into resin printing was not having a safe space for harmful fumes while printing as well as having a working space for resin away from my small curious and ever growing child. The safety concerns and studies regarding resin printing are vast and too big for discussion today but let me know in the comments if you wish for me to go into it more.
Even though I did spend roughly a month printing out of an old wooden wardrobe. My partner and I built an enclosure to become the future home and current home of both printers, their materials, and tools needed while venting out of the house.
Once I got the printer, the setup, I set to work.
Admitting my Stubbornness
Much like the excitement of starting 3D printing, resin printing completely opened a whole new world for me. While i’ll always be an advocate of FDM printing and consider there to still be a place for filament printed miniatures. I admit I absolutely prefer resin printed miniatures over FDM. I am without a doubt someone who will “Fight” others to say you can print tabletop standard in FDM but resin miniatures are leaps and bounds better in quality with less time committed than FDM.
Troubleshooting & Getting Started
When in doubt relevel your print bed. This is the cause of a significant vast majority of 3D printing issues for resin and unfortunately takes practice.
Also factory settings or even other peoples settings are not the best print settings for your printing environment and printer. Resin printing can be more temperamental than FDM so just sharing of print profiles does not work as easily. use these as recommendations to start from and run many calibrations.
Avoid Being a First Adopter
I now vow to avoid being a first adopter to a printer in the future. As one of the first people to own a Phrozen Sonic Mini 4K I absolutely love my printer BUT it isn’t perfect. What i’ve learned the hard way is that printers come out so quickly in-depth quality assurance is not always the case. Thankfully the model has improved over time for new owners purchasing the mini 4K. I’ve most nortiously struggled with my z-axis and issues associated with it such as banding and locking into place.
For the future i’ll wait a year or so before buying into a printer and let others pioneer the path. Being a mom of young kids I do not have the time anymore for such indepth troubleshooting.
To start off printing I jumped right in and printed my absolute favorite monster the Owlbear. This baby owlbear is made by Manuel Boria and is one of the models in his welcome pack for joining his patreon. There are 3 in this set and immediately I was blown away by the detail of the sculpt with the tiny paws, fur texture and even cute eyes. Also looking back i’ve realized that i’ve also significantly improved my miniature photography skills.
Most Failures & Most Expensive Printing
I’ll never forget the hard hard lesson of knowing how much resin you should put into your printing vat. I must have failed about 4 times on the top leaves portion of the Heartwood Treant by Lost Adventures Co. Each failure was around $6 an attempt, ouch. This is by far now the most “expensive” model in my collection to print because of it.
My absolutely favorite model printed to date was one I least expected the Graveyard Golem. Man does this figure have some incredible character. Much like I describe on the write up for printing this model I did not expect to fall in love with the model like I did. However the render of the figure did not do it justice for all the detail and storytelling found on the figure. I can’t wait to paint this!
Overall resin printing has not only really enhanced my 3D printing experience but in general has really motivated and inspired me to paint more. I truly do not think I was fully into the hobby as a “miniature painter” but after being able to print incredibly detailed sculpts and bring ideas to life it absolutely has changed me. I still consider myself new as a miniature painter and attempted to grow but have completely jumped into the hobby space.
Over the course of the last year i’ve learned a lot, grown a lot and have even recently joined the ranks of doing professional 3D printing support work. I am working diligently to bring much of my collective knowledge and reference material to life in a brand new “Printing Section” of the website. This section will contain, how to get started, troubleshooting, FAQ, tools and materials and more.
If you are on the fence of jumping into 3D printing i’d say it is absolutely worth it and there couldn’t be a better time to jump in the hobby. Have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask below as I’m always willing to help in your journey.
Are you working on anything special? Do you print miniatures or are thinking about it? Let me know in the comments.
As always Happy Crafting,
Carrie aka crazmadsci the Crazy Mad Scientist.